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Aid Trickling In to Myanmar
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Aid Trickling In to Myanmar

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Aid Trickling In to Myanmar

Aid Trickling In to Myanmar
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Twelve days after the cyclone, Myanmar is allowing more emergency aid to enter the country, but there seems to be a bottleneck in Yangon. International disaster assistance experts are still having trouble securing visas, despite ongoing negotiations. There is great concern about the possibility of disease among the many, now homeless, survivors, but no outbreaks have been reported yet.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

MICHELLE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michelle Norris.

In Myanmar, the United Nations is estimating that the death toll from the cyclone could reach 100,000. And the U.N. upped its estimate of survivors severely affected by the storm to as many as 2.5 million. Today, more U.S. aid flights reached the country also known as Burma. But the military rulers still are not granting visas to foreign aid workers. In a moment, we'll talk with someone who has just returned from one of the hardest-hit villages. First, from Bangkok, NPR's Doualy Xaykaothao reports that a Thai team and groups from several other countries will be allowed in.

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XAYKAOTHAO: Tons of blankets, bottled water and mosquito nets were put into U.S. planes headed once more for Myanmar. But the Americans who delivered the aid didn't stay in the country; they can't. Not until visas are approved. However, Myanmar did okay more than a 150 relief workers from India, China, Bangladesh and Thailand. They'll be allowed to travel there soon to help with relief efforts. The U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Eric John, said earlier this week...

Mr. ERIC JOHN (U.S. Ambassador to Thailand): It's absolutely critical that disaster-response specialists be allowed into Burma to help those struggling with the massive devastation that confronts them.

XAYKAOTHAO: That's the sentiment of many agencies with staff awaiting visas in Bangkok, including the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent. Spokesman John Sparrow said they are talking to government officials in Myanmar at all levels about how to scale up faster.

Mr. JOHN SPARROW (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies): It's an ongoing dialogue about the needs that our assessment teams for Myanmar, Myanmar Red Cross, bring back about the response that we can provide, how we can support Myanmar to move more effectively on this crisis. So yes, it's an open and very frank dialogue.

XAYKAOTHAO: By the end of Friday, he said, the Red Cross will have had 17 flights into Yangon with about 180 tons of relief goods, much of it shelter materials.

Mr. SPARROW: Our pipeline is certainly now, I would say, running with the rhythm. We would like it to be bigger and much - have much more going in. But since Wednesday last week, things have been picking up.

XAYKAOTHAO: That's true, said Champa Blueman(ph) with UNICEF's East Asia and Pacific Regional Office. There has been progress, but...

Ms. CHAMPA BLUEMAN (UNICEF): Sanitation remains an enormous challenge. Water - we've got good water purification, chlorine, bleaching powder, going out. The challenge now is for looking at more sustained supplies of water in these affected communities.

XAYKAOTHAO: One of their organization's major concern is schools. Almost 2,500 primary schools have been damaged, according to U.N. agencies, and classes are supposed to start in June.

Ms. BLUEMAN: Our priority is to try and get at least some temporary schooling going. Even if it's under a tarpaulin under a tree, as long as it's a place they come to where they've got some supervision and they can get some more of that emotional guidance and support that they need.

XAYKAOTHAO: Until schools and child-friendly spaces built by UNICEF, World Vision and others are ready, kids will likely remain holed up in makeshift camps and monasteries for some time. This while early monsoon rains further hampers efforts to help the millions now in need of aid.

Doualy Xaykaothao NPR News, Bangkok.

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